A YEAR or two ago, in writing on the need for
stopping the exodus from the country into the towns by the provision of more cottages, we expressed. the hope that some day we might see an Exhibition of cheap cottages. That Exhibition should show, we declared, that if we would only avail ourselves of them, there are methods of construction which will enable landlords to build cottages, and to let them at a rate which rural labourers can pay, without financial loss. We are delighted to find that such an Exhibition is at last about to be organised in earnest. Our contemporary the County Gentleman in its issue of to-day announces that, in conjunction with the First Garden City Company, Limited, it has entered on the work of organising an Exhibition of cheap cottage building. A Provisional Organising Committee has already been formed from among those who realise the vital importance of the rural housing question, and steps are being taken to interest the general public in the scheme. The Garden City Company, with great public spirit, has expressed its willingness to do all in its power to further the scheme, and to allow the Exhibition to take place on its land at Letchworth, in Hertfordshire. Further, it is pre- pared to offer exceedingly favourable terms to builders throughout the country who may be willing to show what can be done in the way of cheap cottage building, both by the use of patent methods and also by the economical use of ordinary materials. The Exhibition will show what modern ingenuity can do in the way of cheap housing. It will also show how systems of building with special materials long established in various localities can be used and adapted for a wider area. It is confidently hoped that on the estate of the Garden City Company we may by next July see erected a whole village of cheap, but also thoroughly sanitary and inhabitable cottages illustrating some twenty or thirty methods of construction,—a village which can be inspected by landlords anxious to build if only they can do so without loss, or by private individuals who may wish to build a cheap cottage in the country for themselves. It is, we understand, the intention of the organisers of this Exhibition to insist specially on the cheapness of the cottages. Every one knows already that it is perfectly possible to build a very pretty, healthy, and pleasant cottage for .2300 or £400. Unfortunately, however, such a cottage is practically worthless as an aid to the solution of the problem of rural housing. You may build a £300 cottage as a luxury, or as an act of philanthropy, but no rural labourer can afford to live in it if you charge him an economic rent,—that is, a rent which represents a fair return on the money expended on its erection. A £300 cottage, even assuming that the £300 covers all expenses for land and laying out, cannot be let profitably under .215 a year. But how can a man with 18s. a week afford to pay 6s. a week in rent ? As was pointed out in the first article in the County Gentleman series on cheap cottage building entitled "In Search of a £150 Cottage," there can be no solution of the problem of rural housing unless a decent cottage can be built for £150; or, in other words, unless a decent cottage can be let with- out loss for 3s. a week, though even that rent, we realise, is larger than many agricultural labourers find it easy If, then, the Exhibition of cheap cottages is to be of practical use, as we trust and believe it will be, the problem which the Committee have before them is to get exhibitors to show cottages fit for a workman and. his family that can be erected at not more than £150. Their efforts will, we feel sure, meet with the encouragement of all who have the problem of rural housing at heart. Remember that this problem of cheap cottage building is no mere fad or piece of philanthropic enthusiasm, but a vital matter. If we are to hold our own as a nation and an Empire, the British Islands must contain a healthy and enduring population. Such a population we can only have, however, if we main- tain a proper proportion of country-bred people. But we can only have country-bred people if there are houses available in the country in which men can live and bring up a family. Again, we can only have a sufficient supply of houses for them to live in if it is economically possible to build a house which a country labourer can afford to rent. Thus the cheap-cottage problem will be seen to be bound up with the most vital interests of the nation and the Empire. That is why we welcome the scheme of the County Gentleman and of the Garden City Company to hold an Exhibition of cheap cottages, and to show the world that cheap cottages are not impossibilities; and. why we desire to do all in our power to help and support their efforts. It is obvious that to make an Exhibition of the kind pro- posed a success a considerable sum of money must be raised in order to pay expenses and to provide adequate prizes which shall stimulate the ingenuity of builders and of manufacturers of patent building materials. Therefore the County Gentleman appeals not only to its own readers, but to the public in general, to provide the funds required. The County Gentleman has opened the sub- scription with .2100 from its proprietors, and asks that subscriptions may be sent to "The Manager, the County Gentleman Office, 3 Wellington Street, Strand, London, W.C." We trust that those of our readers who are interested in the housing problem, whether they live in London or in the country, will give the scheme their support, by small or large donations. For our- selves, we may say that, should any of our readers desire it, we will most gladly accept subscriptions at this office, and forward them to the County Gentleman. Such sub- scriptions will be acknowledged in the Spectator as well as in the County Gentleman. We may add that all letters in connection with the organisation of the Exhibition should be addressed to Mr. Thomas Adams, The First Garden City Company, Ltd., 348 Birkbeck Bank Chambers, Holborn, W.C.
Our readers will find in the current issue of the County Gentleman details of the proposed Exhibition to supplement those given above. We may add here, however, that the proposals seem eminently fair and reasonable as regards the builders. An ordinary builder or a firm supplying wooden or iron houses, or houses made from dry concrete slabs or from any other patent material, will be asked to submit plans. If those plans are approved, the Garden City Company, on whose grounds, as we have stated above, the Exhibition will be held, will guarantee, after the Exhibition has closed, to find a tenant for the cottage who will pay a rent equal to 5 per cent, on the cost of erection ; or else, if preferred, they wil offer facilities for the sale of the building by the firm which erected it. Thus will be avoided the disheartening and wasteful scenes of destruction which necessarily follow ordinary exhibitions. In such cases the buildings are no sooner erected than they are pulled down. In the case of the proposed Exhibition of cheap cottages at Letchworth, they will become, after they have served their purposes as "exhibits," the real homes of working people. This is possible because the Exhibition will be held on a site where the Garden City Company's other schemes make it certain that there will be a demand for cottages at reason- able rents. This plan of leaving the cottages standing as real homes has the further advantagethat it will constitute at Letchworth a permanent exhibition of cheap cottage build- ing. Too often it happens that a man remembers vaguely that he saw some ingenious device at an exhibition a year or two ago which he then could not make use of, but about which he now wants full information. It is ten to one, however, that after the lapse of years he will be unable to trace the commodity or invention which he remembers. In the case of the proposed Exhibition there will be, as it were, a standing library of reference on cheap cottage building always open for use at Letchworth. The landlord who determines to build a cottage, or a dozen cottages, will be able to go to the Garden City and choose the system which he prefers, and can there learn from the experi- ence of the residents which form of construction has best stood the test of time.
We can only end as we began, by congratulating the Garden City Company and the County Gentleman on the good work they have begun, and by expressing our earnest hope that they will obtain a wide public support for the "Exhibition of Cheap Cottage Building."